Director General/Executive Director
Remarks of the Executive Director UNODC at the International High-Level Conference on a Comprehensive and Integrated Approach to Prevention & Treatment of Drug Dependence and related HIV/AIDS
21 May 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for inviting me to the conference which is dedicated to building a new strategic approach to the prevention and treatment of drug dependence and related HIV/AIDS.
Creating a national strategy that addresses drug supply and demand is a vital one for Ukraine, but also for other countries across the globe.
Drug use and dependence represent growing challenges for public health, social and economic development and security.
This challenge is confronted by both industrialized and developing countries. It is heavily associated with health problems, poverty, violence, criminal behaviour and social exclusion.
Illicit drug use ranks as one of the top twenty risk factors to health worldwide. Every year, up to 200,000 people are killed due to illicit drugs.
The cost of drugs to societies is enormous. If crime, health and lost productivity are all taken into account, it is estimated that the cost is as much as 2 per cent of GDP in some countries.
In many countries, up to two-thirds of people who come into contact with the law test positive for drugs.
Studies indicate that the percentage of prisoners facing drug problems ranges from 40 to 80 per cent.
And the causal relationship between drug abuse and serious diseases has created a heavy burden of disease that must be carried by societies everywhere.
Across the globe, injecting drug use is the major highway along which HIV and hepatitis travels. Up to 10% of global HIV infections are due to this form of taking drugs.
But, behind these figures is the human dimension. The misery and pain suffered by individuals, families and communities.
These are the stories of children, women and men: neglected, abused, deprived and excluded. These people face extreme poverty and often extreme violence.
UNODC, along with its partners, advocates a re-balancing of the international policy on drugs and crime.
At present, the balance between work on the supply and demand sides tends to favour the supply side. But, supply reduction cannot succeed without an equally strong commitment to demand reduction.
Instead of punishment, we offer individuals science-based programmes directed at p revention, treatment, rehabilitation, and reintegration back into society that protect their human rights.
Comprehensive and cost-effective treatment tools exist. Outreach, health care, evidence-based training for those offering support, and social protection have all been demonstrated to work.
Fighting stigma and discrimination are also essential. We must educate, educate and educate again, not just children and young people, but entire societies.
To help achieve this, UNODC has recently launched a Youth Initiative aimed at empowering young persons to advocate for substance use prevention and for societies where drugs are rejected as a way of life.
We must also appreciate that drug users deserve support and assistance; they do not deserve marginalization and exclusion.
Since 2009, UNODC has had an ongoing programme for the prevention of drug use, HIV/AIDS and crime among young people through training programmes in low-and-middle-income countries.
Based on estimates, for every $1 dollar invested in treatment it reduces the costs of drug-related crime, criminal justice costs and theft by $4 to $7 dollars.
When health care savings are added, the total estimated savings exceed costs by a ratio of 12 to 1.
Overall, the UNODC's approach is a "one-stop shop" that ensures patients receive the necessary support at every stage of their disease.
This means protecting individuals from the devastating impact of drug use: HIV infection, overdoses, and starvation, while also enabling individuals to discuss psychological issues and make requests for detoxification.
These approaches follow the 2009 Political Declaration which called for the implementation of the nine interventions viewed by UNAIDS, UNODC and WHO as effective against HIV among drug users.
Such approaches must also be linked at the local and international levels to ensure that we develop an integrated response to the prevention and treatment of drug dependence.
I, therefore, commend the launch of Ukraine's National Drug strategy in line with the drug conventions, which offers a crucial link between the local and the global.
UNODC is prepared to offer every assistance in the development of Ukraine's comprehensive drug control and public health policy.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The main purpose of this conference is not only to discuss drug control and treatment within Ukraine, but also to promote a science-based approach in the treatment of drug dependence to the region.
To do so, we need to recognize the interconnected nature of our work. Countries are confronted by the same threats, and quite often they share the same solutions.
Our greatest challenge is to continue to exchange ideas and lessons to ensure that every country offers effective and efficient drug treatment, fully compatible with human rights and the rule of law.
I commend the Government of Ukraine for their commitment and vision for improving drug demand treatments and seeking to alleviate the suffering of people affected by drugs.
On behalf of UNODC, I look forward to working with the government of Ukraine to achieve these goals.